House rental scams on Craigslist are on the increase. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Craigslist’s well deserved reputation as a haven for fraudsters; local law enforcement can rarely do anything to police the site, and in a misplaced belief in free expression, Craigslist executives refuse to take strong steps to curb the rampant Craigslist rental scams and other fraud occurring on the site.
Instead, Craigslist relies on community policing – the ability of any user to report a listing that appears fraudulent, dishonest, or illegal. However, especially with a Craigslist rental scam, it can be difficult or impossible to tell the “real” listings from the fraudulent ones. Let’s face it: Most legitimate listings on Craigslist have various spelling and grammar mistakes, so this is no longer a sure way to spot a fraud.
These fraudulent rental ads can be extremely damaging. Several listings have been reported that install viruses and other malware on user’s computers through an advertised link. Others are more serious, thinly veiled attempts to get interested renters to provide personal information that opens them up to the risk of identity theft. If you want to avoid getting burned, you have to familiarize yourself with new ways of uncovering misleading Craigslist rental ads.
Known Craigslist Rental Scams to Watch Out For
Stumble Forward previously did an expose on known criminals using the Craigslist housing rental scam, which you can read about here, to help readers avoid working with these dishonest individuals. Unlike other lists, we listed these scammers by name, and also enlisted the help of our readers to help weed these criminals out. Here are some of the comments we received about who to watch out for:
- Eyak Technology, which moves from scam to scam as wary Craigslisters catch on. This one is almost always on the message boards.
- Lacy Belaine, Cindy Miller, and Angie Martin, who post attractive fake properties for rent then request interested renters to go to a scam website to send her their credit information – even before the property address is released or a walk through has been completed.
- US Property Management LLC and Regional Properties Management.Com, which offer to connect renters with a credit report company in order to get referrals to desirable properties.
How to Protect Yourself from Craigslist Rental Scams
As Craigslist rental scams become more sophisticated, it is more difficult to tell whether a rental listing is genuine. Aside from following basic rules of thumb such as “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” these hints will help you avoid wasting your time and possibly damaging your credit history over fraudulent Craigslist rentals.
- Look at the pictures carefully. If the listing says there are granite counter tops or wood floors, the pictures should match up. Look for pictures of the entire building and not just the unit as well. If there are no pictures, you might want to move on to the next listing so that you don’t waste your time on a fake or undesirable rental.
- Beware the “next in line” scam. If the landlord, rental property agent, or owner is rushing you through to a deal because you were the “next in line” after the person dropped out, be suspicious. Landlords will show available properties to multiple people at one time, and typically whoever provides the deposit first gets the keys. Any other arrangement is a warning sign for a Craigslist housing rental scam.
- Never give out personal information until it’s time to sign paperwork. Unless you are ready and willing to sign a lease, there is absolutely no reason why the landlord should be asking you for your income, social security number, place of employment, or other information that wouldn’t be considered public. If someone insists on seeing this information before you see the property, walk away; even the person isn’t running one of the many Craigslist rental property scams, if they can’t spend the time to show you around without your life history, they won’t be a pleasant landlord to work with anyway.
- Consider using other sites than Craigslist. Yes, there are many valid offers on Craigslist, but there are also too many Craigslist rental home scams for any one individual to keep track of. Why risk the roof over your head using an unreliable source to find your home or rental property? You are much better protected using services like Apartments.com, which charges landlords a listing fee and vets listings for integrity.
If you know of any Craigslist rental scammers or have a story to tell, Stumble Forward wants to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.